A Mother of a Year

I’ve heard it said that motherhood is more of a marathon than a sprint. I see what they mean: it goes on for a really long time, and it’s hard on your body. During the hardest stretches, you sometimes wonder why you ever signed up for it at all. If you’ve been mothering during a global pandemic, you might say that motherhood is a like a marathon where you have to sprint the whole way. If some of us want this Mother’s Day to be extra special, I’d say we’ve earned it.

If you have children under 30, this has been a marathon of togetherness. It’s like if you threw a dinner party and no one ever left. It was festive to cook all day and enjoy a full table, but then the next morning they’re still there and they want breakfast, and then lunch. And since they’re staying, you might as well throw in a little laundry for them. They infiltrate your office and your living room with constant Zoom calls and high volume speaker phone conversations. I’ve had that country song in my head for an entire year – “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”

It hasn’t been just the doing that is wearing us out, it’s also the being. Being happy, being upbeat, being present, being fun. When I was growing up and crises were moving through my household like a January draft, I would look to my mother to find out if we were okay. My mother was a genius at being okay, so I took her okay-ness level as a sign that we had not become unmoored, that we were safe. I’ve taken on this role in my family, as if a perky attitude will bring back their missed graduations and normal social lives. Sorry you missed your freshman year in high school, but look! Banana bread!

If you are a mother with little kids, we should erect a statue in your honor in the middle of the town square. My niece has an 18-month-old baby, and as I recall, if you have an 18-month-old baby, you don’t have anything else. Though she also has a full time job and another baby on the way, so there’s that. She works over Zoom with the baby on her lap, and soon she won’t even have a lap for that baby to sit on. I honestly don’t know she does it. I see mothers of three-year-olds explaining to them that they need to keep their masks on because there’s a deadly germ out there. And, at the same time, that there’s nothing to worry about. Or mothers explaining to five-year-olds that the letters K and C make the same sound, but not always. Sometimes C sounds like S. Why? I don’t know. Let’s make banana bread!

Many mothers and grandmothers of children who are grown have been isolated over the past year. They have seen their families over Zoom or through closed windows or seated in lawn chairs on either end of the driveway. I think of these moms and how they must long for a few minutes of the full capacity mayhem of my household, how they’d love to have toddlers on their laps. It reminds me that the challenge of this time has also been the luxury – knowing exactly how my kids are faring, because they’re right here.

So this Mother’s Day I hope we all have a chance to feel grateful and also pat ourselves on the back. And if you’re lucky enough to see your mother, give her a pat too. If you’ve put on a little weight or if you feel a little unenthusiastic about self-improvement and all those goals you set a year ago, give yourself a break. We will look back on this time and wonder how we ever did it. It has been one mother of a year.